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Understanding Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

Updated: Jan 24, 2021

Unconscious Bias is an opinion or a decision, made by a person, which deviates from the right one because of our emotions, influence by others, or other factors. Typically a stereotype that influences our decisions/judgments on how we engage with others. In our daily life or workplace, it is pretty common, given the repetition of our schedule, habits, and working with the same people.

In fact, sometimes, our gut feeling is also considered unconscious bias. It is thus said to be more aware, that is, more conscious of such feeling so as to add objectivity to our decisions.

Typical Examples of Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias also known as implicit bias, it is a situation where our background, experiences, and environmental conditions affect our daily perception. One can relate through daily experiences based on the general human tendency.

Given are some typical examples of unconscious bias:-

  • In a meeting, you have voted for a specific option just because your friend voted for that option

  • You have gone in favor of the majority even though your opinion is different

  • You have preferred a specific person based on ethnicity, gender, or personal reason rather than talent, many times the same as that of yours or of your interest

  • You have gone ahead with your senior’s decision, even though you are not confident about that decision

  • You have taken a decision in favor or against a person based on past experiences and not considering the current situations

  • You decide the eligibility of a candidate in an interview based on grades and colleges rather than the performance in the interview

  • You judge a person’s nature, either positive or negative, just based on one or two incidents and subsequently make decisions based on that.

Types of Unconscious Bias:

  1. Affinity Bias- Associating self with others of similar interests, making you birds of the same flock

  2. Confirmation bias- When we make dwecisions based on our requirements/ prejudices

  3. Attribution bias- When we judge others based on our past experiences with them

  4. Halo effect- Learning positive about somebody/ something influences us to prefer their decisions

  5. Horns effect- Opposite of Halo effect. Learning negative about somebody/ something that influences us to think negative about them

In all the above cases, you went ahead with others opinions even though you think otherwise. It could be because of a lack of confidence, fear of others, or some other personal factor.

Effects of Implicit Bias- Lack of confidence and fear of others are more prevalent for entry-level employees. Sometimes, the majority might vote for the wrong strategy. In such cases, you end up on the wrong side even after knowing the correct point.

In the case of mid-level and senior-level employees, personal factors play a prominent role in affecting decisions. It could be because of competition or jealousy, the employees form groups, wherein we ally with some people and are against some others. So, the decisions are impacted by the think-tank of these groups and we might fall prey to these decisions.

Whatever the reason is unconscious bias affects the outcome of decisions majorly. The more the employees affected, the more chaos in meetings and decisions made.

Managing and Overcoming Unconscious Bias

  1. Make sure you are assertive in your communication. Be confident, and give your opinion. If others provide some valid reasons, you can change your opinion. Otherwise, stay in your opinion.

  2. You can follow what your senior says, but make sure you stay with your decision. This way, your senior is clear with your stand. Even if things go wrong, your senior could build confidence in your approach and believe your strategies easily, next time.

  3. You can not always be correct with your gut feeling. In the workplace, give importance to facts and logic than feelings.

  4. Be aware of the negative impact of Unconscious bias and help yourself stay away from it. During the initial stages, seek help from a senior or a person neutral to it.

  5. Do not create opinions or make decisions based on past experiences.

  6. Make your team members aware of the negative impact of the same. If you still observe, correct the team members on a one-to-one basis

  7. Focusing more on facts and objective analysis will help avoid bias created through any means. Wherever subjective analysis is required, make sure a thorough analysis is done before making any decisions.

Ever encounter and/ or realize a situation like that? Question Yourself. Relate. Improve

If you have already experienced one, tell us in the comments below OR Submit your Story

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